No cash distribution of coco funds–Piñol
IRVINE, California—There will be no cash distribution of the coconut levy funds to farmers, incoming Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol clarified in a meeting with Filipino-American businessmen here Wednesday night (Thursday in Manila).
Piñol said the release of the multibillion funds—a campaign promise to coconut farmers—will come in other forms benefiting the farmers, including scholarships and programs to expand the coconut industry.
“[President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s policy] statement was to make sure that the coconut levy funds are given back to the farmers, and you know, somebody came up with the statement, ‘how can you give it, P20,000 per farmer’ but giving is a broad term,” said Piñol.
Piñol said “giving back” doesn’t necessarily mean giving in the form of cash. “That’s how shallow people sometimes understand the statement of [Duterte].”
Piñol was referring to Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan’s response to Duterte’s directive to release the coco levy funds to the farmers.
“If the P72 billion fund is distributed directly to coconut farmers, that would mean each farmer would receive some P20,000,” said Pangilinan, former presidential assistant for food security and agricultural modernization secretary.
Pangilinan cautioned that the amount distributed will have no real impact on addressing poverty.
Piñol made the clarification as an example of how “some people do not understand the context of [Duterte’s] statements.”
When asked if there was a timeline for the planned release of the coco levy funds, Pinol said, “I wouldn’t know the timeline. I wouldn’t know the procedure and the process. But the directive was very clear—return the coconut levy [funds] to the farmers.”
Duterte promised to release the coco levy fund to farmers within the first month of his term.
Piñol said he is confident that the plan will have the support of the public and the lawmakers.
“Everybody wants to be identified with Duterte right now. Rody is soaring high. Even members of Congress have suddenly turned [into] Duterte fans,” he said.
In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that coco levy assets should benefit coconut farmers. In March 2015, President Aquino issued Executive Order Nos. 179 and 180 aimed to privatize the coco levy funds, but these were suspended by the high tribunal.
The coconut farmers funds were allegedly used by Marcos crony Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. to acquire the United Coconut Planters Bank, San Miguel Corp. and other businesses.
Piñol’s meeting with more than 100 Fil-Am businessmen, held at The Vine Orange County in Irvine, was organized by Fil-Am author and businesswoman Emma Tiebens and the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of Orange County (FACCOC).
The incoming agriculture secretary also met with Deputy Commissioner of Foreign Trade Carrie Brooks, Office of Foreign Trade Commissioner Heidi Marshall from the Riverside County Economic Development Agency and Small Business Administration’s Economic Development Specialist Paul Smith.
The officers of FACCOC and the Federation of Philippine American Chambers of Commerce pledged their support for Piñol’s initiatives.
“[Piñol] spoke of so many issues, yet he also shared how he intends to solve them,” Tiebens, FACCOC board director, said “He is very strategic with his approach.”